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The Parent-Guide Team: Creating trust and working together to support your child

There is no better team to serve your child than the Parent-Guide team. As their parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Your child’s guide spends countless hours with them and has the educational expertise and understanding to foster their learning style and help them achieve socially and academically. Together that is a winning combination!

However, sometimes it can be difficult to trust or bond with your child’s guide. Understandably, our children are incredibly precious, and placing them in someone else’s care, and guidance takes trust and confidence. Just as you would trust your pediatrician to diagnose and treat a medical concern for your child, you must offer the same trust to your child’s guide so they can foster your child’s academic, emotional, and social development.

The saying, it takes a village to raise a child is true, and you should welcome your child’s guide into your village.

Creating Bonds with Your Child’s Guide

The first step in welcoming your child’s guide into your village and building trust is creating a bond and making connections. It is difficult to bond with someone we don’t know or in places we ourselves feel uncomfortable. So to interact with your child’s guide, exchange greetings, and get to know them a little.

Tips for building a healthy relationship

  • Attend open houses, back-to-school nights, and parent information sessions
    • If you can’t make it, ask for a phone call or a facetime meeting to go over what you missed at the event
  • Volunteer for school events
  • Respond in a timely manner to emails, forms sent home, or requests for supplies
  • Attend conferences or requested meetings
  • Show your appreciation for what your child’s guide does. A short thank you note goes a long way to making a guide feel appreciated.
  • Ask how their day was. Kindness is always noted and welcomed!

Understand yourself

Your past experiences with educators or schools may color how you perceive your child’s guide. Therefore it is important to reflect inward and understand yourself if you’re struggling to trust a guide. 

  • Do they remind you of a teacher or authority figure you didn’t get along with?
  • Do you feel you don’t have enough information or communication?
  • Was school a positive or negative experience for you? Why?
  • Are they from a different culture or appear to have different values from you and your family? If so, does that bother you, and why?
  • What do you need to trust someone? Make a list.

I highly recommend The Essential Conversation: What parents and teachers can learn from each other by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.

Trust builds confidence

The main benefit to trusting someone or something is that we gain confidence in them and the situation. For example, if we trust that our child’s guide knows what they’re doing and has our child’s best interests at heart, we have confidence in leaving our child with them all day.

Additionally, presenting a united front to your child builds up your child’s confidence and feelings of security. If learners see that their parents trust their guide, they will too. When there are disagreements or concerns, discuss them out of earshot of your child. You should never do or say anything to undermine your child’s trust or respect for their guide in front of them.

Teamwork between you and your child’s guide benefits your child even when you don’t always see eye to eye.

The Importance of Communication

The second key ingredient to a successful parent-guide team is communication. As with most successful relationships, effective communication is an essential building block. Without effective communication, there is often misunderstanding, confusion, frustration, and possibly even anger and resentment.

Tips for effective communication

  • Respect the guide’s time and ask them when the best times for a phone call or in-person meeting would be.
  • Use notes or emails to relay important information if there’s no time for a chat.
  • Share upcoming or recent changes to your child’s life. These changes can significantly impact your child’s behavior at school. Of course, only share what you’re comfortable with, but the more info your child’s guide has, the better they can help.
    • Passing of a pet or grandparent
    • Severe or chronic illness in the family
    • New baby arriving
    • Family member moving in or out of the house
    • Moving
    • Divorce or a new marriage
    • Change in the routine; parents have a new job or change in their schedule
    • Change in caregiver or babysitter
  • Respond in a timely fashion to emails and phone calls.
  • Read ALL the information sent home.
  • Ask when you have questions or concerns; avoid making assumptions. 
  • Employ Active Listening skills
    • Pay attention
    • Avoid judgment
    • Reflect
    • Clarify
    • Summarize
    • Share

Handling Disagreements and Challenging Situations

Because we are all human, disagreements and challenging situations will arise. First, it is essential to realize that no one is perfect or always right, not your child, not you, and not your child’s guide.

Listen openly to your child’s guide if they present a behavioral or academic concern. Our natural impulse is to shut down and say, “Not my child,” because we feel criticized. But if you are open and willing to listen, you can shed light on a situation and work together to create a positive outcome.

Mistakes, learning roadblocks, and behavioral problems are all challenges; every child will face some or all of them at some point in their learning career. Use these situations as opportunities for your child to learn and grow. Reflect with them on mistakes; problem-solve how they can help fix or work problems. Not only does this process build cognitive skills, but it also develops their sense of empathy and helps them understand their role in a larger unit.

Tips for handling disagreements and challenging situations

  • Schedule a meeting or phone call to discuss concerns
    • Share your concerns objectively, provide examples
  • Avoid gossip
  • Never speak negatively about your child’s guide in front of them
  • Speak openly
  • Ask questions and voice concerns
  • Look at both sides. What does your child’s guide see during the day that may not happen at home?
    • Different environment
    • Different stimuli
    • DIfferent people
  • Allow for human error. Guides are people like the rest of us and make mistakes.
  • Employ Active Listening
  • Don’t jump to conclusions or judgments
  • Follow up

When you work with your child’s guide and build and maintain a positive relationship, you advocate for your child. You and your child’s guide are on the same team, and you both want what’s best for your child. So stay engaged, reflect, communicate, respect, and build a supportive bond that will go a long way to benefit your child, their education, and development.